Herb Profile: Lemongrass

Not only used for its versatile sweet, spicy, and citrus flavor, lemongrass also has a soothing aroma that eases anxiety, muscle and joint pain, and upset stomachs.

| July 2016

  • “Herb & Spice Companion: The Complete Guide to Over 100 Herbs & Spices” by Lindsay Herman
    Photo courtesy of Wellfleet Press
  • Lemongrass is an important part of many Asian cuisines due to its complex taste.
    Photo by Fotolia/rukxstockphoto

When it comes to cooking, the sheer variety of herbs and spices can be overwhelming. With all the powders, jars, and plants available, how do you know what to buy and when to use it? When is fresh better than dry? Should you eat the stems, the leaves, the roots? In Herb & Spice Companion (Wellfleet Press, 2015), Lindsay Herman has created an accessible guide to seasonings, with over one hundred profiles of the most-used herbs and spices across the globe. As exampled here with lemongrass, Herman provides a comprehensive look at each plant’s history, how to prep and serve and store the seasoning, and how to grow your own herbs from seed to harvest. That’s not even mentioning her instructions on various techniques for drying, freezing, frying, mixing, crushing, and chopping that are both brilliant and simple. A book for everyone, from cooks just starting out to old pros adding excitement to their dishes, Herb & Spice Companion is a must for any kitchen.

Lemongrass

Cymbopogon citrates
Flavors: tangy, tart lemon with hints of floral, mint, ginger, and pepper

Cool, fresh lemongrass is a favorite flavoring in Indonesian, Malay, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines. It features prominently in intricately flavored Malaysian dishes that crisscross between sweet and sour, salty and spicy, and citrus and fish. Lemongrass flavor deepens as it cooks, so add early during cooking for an intense effect, or wait until later for a lighter seasoning. Stalks can be bruised or crushed to release flavor during cooking (then removed before serving), or finely chopped, minced, or pounded to a soft pulp.

Lemongrass is also available in dried powder form, called sereh powder; one teaspoon of sereh powder provides a comparable flavor to one fresh stalk.



Health Benefits

Lemongrass can promote healthy digestion and is often consumed as a tea for its stomach-calming effects, including relief from cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Its relaxing aroma makes it one of the top selling essential oils in the world, believed to reduce anxiety and ease muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, and stomachaches.

In the Garden

Lemongrass, a perennial, grows naturally in tropical, sunny climates. In cold climates, lemongrass will grow well indoors in a container when treated to lots of direct sunlight. Just move your lemongrass outside in spring after the last frost and back inside for the winter.



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